Friday, April 22, 2005

Random Ten: This is Last Friday's Playlist, Which You Wouldn't Know If I Hadn't Told You

by Tom Bozzo

Fire up your hardware or software MP3 player, set to shuffle, and report the first ten tracks.

A Certain Ratio

Wild Party (Way Out West Mix)
Looking For A Certain Ratio
The Mighty Lemon DropsLike An Angel

Happy Head & Out of Hand
The House of Love
RoadThe House of Love
Marquee Moon
LunaThe Owl & The PussycatRendezvous
Heidi BerryArielHeidi Berry
The Weather ProphetsLike Frankie Lymon
Diesel River
The Pastels

Baby Honey

Up For A Bit With The Pastels
ManifestoE Dub
Pale Saints

A Thousand Stars Burst OpenIn Ribbons

This playlist, which I actually heard in its entirety as my iPod churned it out, turned out uncannily like a typical start of one of my old WXDR (now WVUD) radio shows from the late '80s.

Among others, I occupied a Thursday evening time slot between "Club 91three," the R&B/dance music show, and the "Reggae Sound Splash," whose then-host Jamie McLaren considered its 8-10 P.M. slot the "unofficial start of the weekend." Jamie left the show in the early '90s, not long after I set off for higher education glory, but his late-'80s occasional co-host Ako Mills soldiers on with the show; for that matter, you can also still hear my former co-host Steve Klinge's "All Tomorrow's Parties," Tuedays from 8-10 (Eastern) on the WVUD internet stream, in case you don't live within a 20-mile radius of Newark, Delaware.

I would usually lead out of Club 91three with a bit of what is now often called electronica, but which was then just alternative dance music. DJ Farshad, who occupied the slot before mine, would often be visibly horrified by what I thought constituted matching beats per minute between tracks(*), but probably would have found the A Certain Ratio remix satisfactory on its own (listen to a 1-minute clip here [Real Audio], or for the whole thing, scrub to the 1 hr. 58 min. mark in this WFMU Real Audio stream). ACR also show up in various forms in the mockumentary "24 Hour Party People," an indispensible video for fans of the Manchester music scene (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, and many more).

The transition into guitar indiepop is quick here — the iPod loves the Mighty Lemon Drops — but that was not an unusual follow-up for a lengthier dance track, with back-announcement of the intro song to cover an otherwise jarring segue. From the Lemon Drops to Heidi Berry, the tunes' pace progressively grinds to a near-stand still, but starting with The Pastels' neo-psychedelic drone, the last three tracks successfully kick things back into gear. Way to go, random track selection!

(*) Though he was not as disgusted as Duane of "Psychedelic Flashback" would be if I was in a position to lead into his show with the Durutti Column's cover version of "White Rabbit" (scroll to FAC 184).
Wow, you've managed to one-up yourself this week. I haven't heard of any of the music in this week's selections - except that I recognize some of the bands from last week's entry.
What's perhaps more amazing is that I've added some more-or-less mainstream music (e.g., R.E.M.) to the iPod since I started this. The first song that came up this morning, FYI, is by Carole King.

It is curious that having gone from ~600 songs to draw the first list to ~950 songs for this one, there are some bands that the iPod's shuffle feature seems to inordinately love.

You will also note, I hope, that I provide relatively abundant links to try to help explain all this esoterica.
Ahhh, the iPod conspiracy - it loves some songs and hates others and will taunt you sometimes:

I posted on a NYT article on this matter.

The linkage is definitely adequate.
Bryan, thanks for sending that link.

My null hypothesis remains that a lot of the perceived non-randomness is due pattern-seeking biases in human cognition, cf. the Virgin of the Underpass. The shuffling "anomalies" I've seen aren't improbable enough to reject randomness at stringent statistical significance levels (0.01, say; there are also potential features of the permutation algorithm that could make them even less improbable than my back of the envelope calculations), but I'll be keeping an eye on the device...
The "random" setting on my portable CD player--yes, I am old; fortunately, Luna and Television were on the list this week--would start with noticeable frequency by playing tracks 2 and 6 of a disc, which is likely to occur roughly once in 132 times (assuming a 12-track CD is the default).

It should be relatively easy for iPod users to test for randomness and refute the null hypothesis, if they actually keep track of the data.
Tom! Hey, I wouldn't have had a problem if you had led into "Psychedelic Flashback" with that tune. I'm always up for new music. I wish I was still doing the show, but alas, no time. Keep up the good fight my man!
"Psychedelic Flashback"
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